The Book of 1 John
Perfected by Obedience
1 John 2:1-6 SCC 6/12/11
I was delivering appliances with one of our drivers while working at my uncle’s appliance store. The customer was somewhat ridiculous, as we removed their 30 yr old stove while the husband hovered around us at the instruction of his obsessed wife. The driver had warned me about this couple after he had gone in and assessed things. They had lined the entire walkway with plastic and watched us like a hawk as we took out the old and brought in the new oven. I must have smirked because the wife asked me why I was cracking a smile as we turned and placed the oven in position. The driver immediately asked me to return to the truck. When he returned he was livid both with the couple and then with me for having to listen to her tirade about my supposed smirk. When we returned to the store, it was the end of the day and as I walked in, my uncle in front of the entire store approached me. yelling about my supposed xianity as he had just gotten off of the phone with the wife of this couple. Maybe I should just leave and not return. The bottom line for him was money not personnel. My immediate boss, Angelo, quickly entered into the situation, asked me to go back to the warehouse and later told me all would be well. He had been an advocate for me. He had stood up for me and while chiding me for what was interpreted as a smirk also indicated that I was a useful worker for the company and this was no reason to jeopardize that. John tells us Jesus is an advocate for his sinning children. The consequences of a believer’s failure, his restoration, and future usefulness, are all urgent matters Jesus takes up with God when sin occurs.
JESUS WORK ON THE CROSS MAKES IT POSSIBLE TO HAVE FELLOWSHIP WITH GOD WHEN WE SIN 2:1-2
We can still sin 1 First, John’s intention is that we not sin. “Little children” indicates that John sees the church as a family, a network of relationships of all ages. He also may be speaking from the perspective of an apostle, an older one by know, and affectionately addresses the ones to whom he is writing. Believers will still have sinful tendencies but this should not be an encouragement to sin. Instead we should be on guard against sinning. However, acknowledging this tendency, we will need help from an advocate. The advocate is Jesus and he represents us to God the Father. The Holy Spirit is also an advocate, but He represents God to us through the Word of God and conviction. Jesus is our defense attorney taking up our case as he did for Peter (Luke 22:31-32). There, Jesus said he asked the Father to prevent Peter’s faith from collapsing as his denial of Christ was approaching. Jesus had in mind Peter’s failure and restoration, and future usefulness. This he took up with His Father on behalf of Peter. John adds Jesus ‘the righteous’. Jesus alone is uniquely suited to this role because of His own personal righteousness. He qualifies as an advocate for sinning children. Not the Virgin Mary; not saints; and not even the Holy Spirit.
God’s demands are thoroughly satisfied 2 God the Father can indeed be gracious and merciful when we sin because the Cross has fully propitiated or satisfied God’s righteous demands to both the saved and unsaved. The scope of satisfaction concerning sin includes two things; (1) Christ making atonement for the sins of the entire world but also (2) becoming an advocate to God for believers. Jesus genuinely died for everyone. Unbelievers who refuse Christ’s sacrifice for them are condemned. This means that anyone who hears the gospel can be saved if they are willing. We will still sin even as believers. And we have help in time of need—Jesus our advocate. If God extends his mercy to us and we do not fully experience the consequence of our sin, it can be traced back to the advocacy of Jesus, whose grace has saved us from sin but also delivers us, as Peter, toward restoration, and future usefulness as we repent.
LESSON: Jesus advocacy does not erase the consequences of sin. Peter still denied Christ and Peter lived with that the rest of his life. So can you and I. Jesus had actually been denied three times and Peter humiliated by this. But Christ stepped in for Peter and he became useful for the kingdom. There is no such thing as free sin.
FELLOWSHIP WITH GOD COMES THROUGH KEEPING CHRIST’S COMMANDMENTS NOT BY DISOBEYING THEM 2:3-6
Fellowship by obedience 3 What John is talking about here is only for believers. If you wonder whether your experience of fellowship with God has led you to intimately know Him in a personal way, here is a test. How can we have assurance that you have come to know God? If you keep Christ’s commandments. The foundation of our salvation is Jesus Christ and His work on the cross. The condition of our salvation is faith. The evidence of our salvation is keeping His commandments. This is how we have come to ‘know Him’. So someone who claims to be a believer, the assurance that they have salvation and know God in a personal way, can do so confidently based on the evidence of their keeping Christ’s commandments. This one can truly be assured to have fellowship with God. Obedience is the condition of such knowledge and assurance. This is ‘knowledge’ in the form by conviction (For instance, I know my family loves me).
Living a lie 4 Here is someone making the claim that they have come to have intimate fellowship with God. But their life does not back up this claim. In other words, they are not keeping Christ’s commandments. John says their claim is a lie. The outcome of that is the ‘truth is not in him’. This person is spiritually deluded as in 1:6, 8, and 10. So the test is obedience, keeping the commandments of Christ. Fellowship with the Father is evidenced by our walking in the light; keeping His commandments. Any deviation from this and we are living a lie. We cannot have it both ways.
Perfected by Obedience 5 So here is the contrast with the previous verse, ‘whoever keeps his word’. What happens to one who does? God’s love is made complete in him. The idea is that keeping Christ’s commandments establishes one’s personal and spiritual maturity. The difference between the Law of Moses and the commands of Christ is that the Law established order—obeying it kept one in the will and favor of God. But keeping Christ’s commandments connects us in a better way to the heart of God since Jesus revealed to us the mind and heart of God not just the Law and will of God. Obviously, the closer I am to the heart of God by keeping the commands of Christ the more I know the heart of God deepening the fellowship I have with God. To know God intimately in this way is to know His love intimately. I cannot have this if I am sinning, disobeying Christ’s commandments, embellishing them, rearranging, extrapolating, reimaging, or manipulating them. So with the commandments of Christ, we can be perfected.
Abiding and walking 6 When John says that ‘by this we know that we are in him’ he is picturing the vine-branch relationship he describes in John 15. It is the intimacy of the vine branch relationship that can experience fellowship and fruitfulness. Putting Christ’s commandments to use in our lives is similar to the vine-branch relationship. We maintain fellowship with God and are assured of a spiritually fruitful and profitable life when we practice Christ’s commandments. This is evidence that one is living in or abiding in Christ v 6. The proof that one is enjoying this kind of intimacy is found in a life that models the obedience of Jesus Christ to His Father’s commands. Those commandments are articulated in the verses that follow.
LESSON: The test of one’s personal intimacy and knowledge of God is in keeping the commands of Christ, which reflect the heart and mind of God for us today in this age. Fellowship with God is not possible by violating those commandments. Do you love God? Then follow the life of Christ and determine to put to use all of the New Testament all the days of your life.